Reconnecting with your toddler can be so tough sometimes.
The first thing my toddler asks for in the morning is “Dada.”
When she falls and gets hurt, she wants “Dada.”
Time for fun? “Dada.”
Now don’t get me wrong – I adore the fact that my husband is an incredible dad, but goodness… what do you do when your toddler treats you like an old shoe?
I mean, I spend the entire day feeding, teaching, and entertaining this girl, but when it comes down to it my girl always asks for daddy.
My husband recently changed careers, and with that came an entire change of lifestyle.
We went from being that family that was almost literally together all the time, to the typical daddy-goes-to-work-and-mama-stays-home-with-the-kids.
At first, my daughter was too little to get what was happening, other than daddy disappeared for a while and came home later. No big deal. But as she grew, so did her awareness that her daddy wasn’t home, and with that realization came the tears.
I had to change my expectations of what my day would look and feel like.
I was still suffering through the grief of losing a baby (I still am), and had to figure out how to care for myself and for my toddler while my husband was away at work all day. And though my girl was my sunshine who brought me through my darkest times, sometimes toddlers play favorites, and my girl is 100% a daddy’s girl.
We took a trip recently where I felt absolutely useless. Daddy was her world, and mama couldn’t do anything right. Each diaper change, book, song, etc., was followed by a raging tantrum for daddy.
I just couldn’t hold it together anymore. We got home from that trip and I fell apart. As long as I’d been nursing my girl I was “vital,” but since weaning, was I really important at all?
The following Monday when my husband returned to work, I made it my mission to reconnect with my girl, rekindle our magic, and make life fun again for both of us.
With some solid, consistent effort, I found my little girl again, and she found her mama.
This mission required some effort and creativity on my part and a lot of love and patience. How could I ever be upset with my daughter for loving her daddy fiercely?
I just needed to show her I could be fun, too.
So I made a commitment to my girl – she was my absolute top priority that week above any and all housework, cooking, texts, business, calls, or selfish wants. And you know what? We discovered something beautiful.
Now, this isn’t a one-time fix all, but I’ve found that any time I’m feeling out of sync with my girl, implementing a few of these usually does the trick to connect back in with her.
This doesn’t mean turning it off and putting it in a secret drawer in your closet. It simply means turning the ringer on loud (for emergency calls) and placing it in a central place in your home. This way if your husband, older kids, parents, etc., need to contact you, they can still reach you.
Decide at the beginning of the day which notifications you’ll respond to. I limit myself to answering important phone calls and responding to texts from my husband. That’s it.
Email, private message, texts from friends, and any other notification can wait until nap time. It’s not about becoming a hermit. It’s about not letting your phone be more important than your kid.
2) Take walks
Adventure walks. You don’t have to leave your neighborhood, or even your yard, to take a quality adventure walk.
Take the walk at your toddler’s pace.
Point out animals, leaves, bugs, planes, clouds, flags, cat statues, and anything else you can possibly see.
Pretend! Jump, flap your wings, walk backward.
Find treasures and let her carry them as long as she wants (I always label these “outside toys” that we leave at the door before we come inside).
This is my favorite way to reconnect.
3) Read books
My kid is a total bookworm. So when we need a little extra special time together, we grab an entire shelf worth of books and settle in.
We read whatever she wants for as long as she wants.
We make it a point to read with our girl every single day, but this can be something you pull out to do when she’s not expecting it, like right after lunch or smack dab in the middle of the morning.
Be sure to read with enthusiasm! Use voices, ask questions, and point out things she may not have noticed.
This one is a big one for me on those days when I’ve lost my mama confidence.
In our home, daddy usually takes care of bath time, and since weaning, he’s done bedtime as well.
He’s also a major help at dinner with cutting up foods and toddler clean up.
On those days where I really need a boost to my confidence and a reconnection point with my girl, I give daddy the evening “off.”
I usually don’t say a word about why I’m taking over, I just do it as an act of service to my husband, my girl, and myself.
Daddy gets to enjoy his dinner while I tackle food prep and cleanup, and then I’ll toss my girl in the tub for some fun splashing time before bed.
I take over jammie time, bedtime stories, and prayers, and then let daddy finish the evening by getting her down.
This shows your toddler that while you may not be the one to do the evening stuff, you’ll still make time for one-on-one quality time.
5) Go shopping
My girl gets extra loving when we’re grocery shopping.
We literally walk around the store in a bear hug together.
I talk to her the entire time we shop, explaining what we need, what our dinner plans are, and working on new words like, “potato” and “Worcestershire sauce” (ha – just kidding on that last one).
She loves it! She can’t help but rub my arms, pull me in for hugs, and play games with me the entire time.
6) Change up the routine
Sometimes staying home all day every day can be a huge bummer, so occasionally I’ll change things up and get us out of the house.
This can be anything from story time at the library, to running an errand for my husband, to heading to the park.
Changing up the routine can be a fresh of breath air for you both.
7) Go to the park
My girl loves nothing more than to be pushed in a swing at the park, and I’m one of those people who feels a thousand times better with just a little fresh air.
Talk to your kid while they do what they love, or just simply let them run themselves out.
Find treasures together, meet new friends, and use that time to focus on your kid, not check your Facebook feed.
8) Fun new activity
When the days feel soooo loooongg, I look for new things for us try.
Recently I grabbed my kid’s jumbo crayons, a cardboard box, and some bubbles, and we spent over an hour outside enjoying the weather, coloring on everything in sight, popping bubbles, and rolling in the grass.
It doesn’t take much, just a little boredom mixed with a little creativity!
9) Sing more songs
Sing any and every song she knows.
As much as she wants.
Teach her new songs.
Show her hand movements.
Take it to the extreme and dance around the room.
In our home, a dance party can remedy just about any problem.
10) More love, hugs, and patience
The days my girl acts out the most are the days I have little to no patience.
When I remember who she is – my sweet girl, my toddler, my sunshine – and who I want to be for her – kind, loving, safe, patient – I can step back and pull together a heart of compassion for my girl who can’t quite communicate with the world yet.
Be the “constant” for your kid.
Get out there and give some of these a go with your toddler.
Reconnect on their level with adventures, songs, stories, and silliness.